School's Out! For! Ever!

October 16, 2014

Since I talked about the decision to pull our children from public school and go the homeschool route, I have gotten tons of questions on Facebook and other online platforms about what goes into it, how it is going, do we like it, etc.

So here it is, the straight dope about homeschooling.

It is fantastic.

I admit, I wasn’t always a believer. I saw the light only after our terrible experience with public schools, but now I freely admit that this way is a thousand times better.

The biggest advantage to me is, on “my days” with the children, I always get to actually spend time with them, instead of running them to/from school and ferris.gifbeing the overbearing homework enforcer. I still have to spend time doing schoolwork with them, but it is decidedly different.

Here’s how it works: I pick up the kids from their mother in the morning, and we head back to my house. Sometimes they are hungry (despite already eating breakfast, natch) and I make food. Then we typically play outside for a while. Then Kathryn has naptime between noon and 1:00. This is the ideal time for me to sit with the boys for a while and go over the lesson.

The lessons are divided up into weekly nuggets. On Fridays, the boys attend the homeschool group we signed up for. The curriculum they are following is called “Classical Conversations,” and despite the misleading name it is based on classical educational techniques. Then, though the next Thursday, we review previous lessons for a short time and the current lesson for a long time.

This process so far takes about two to two-and-a-half hours per day. The boys are soaking it all up, and can recite historical timelines, parts of speech, and even Latin vocabulary.

I have established a pattern at my house where we review one previous week’s content for about 20 minutes before spending an hour to an hour-and-a-half on the current week. During this time I add supplemental information. For example, when reviewing state capitals, I ask if the boys can tell me things that given states are famous for, and of course tell them some.

When the CC review time is over, I supplement in other ways as well. With Seamus, I am drilling multiplication tables for speed every other day. On off days, I show him Khan Academy videos (he loves watching on the ipad and the app is free) about math concepts – standard multi-digit multiplication and long division are what we are doing now. I also assign him vocabulary words to look up in the dictionary and explain to me. Yesterday (Tuesday October 14) my mother the biology major and longtime RN did some work with him on science stuff, with awesome overlay charts.

With Duncan, I have him write the alphabet and his numbers (remember, he is only 5) and also show him Khan Academy videos about age-appropriate things like the concept of tens or number groups.

After all the supplemental work is accounted for, Duncan has yet to spend more than three hours “schooling” in a day with me, and Seamus hasn’t cracked the four hour barrier.

I cannot speak to the schedule on Mrs. Warshaw’s days, but she is a school bus driver so has a chunk of time every day to make it work.

The vast majority of the work is rote memorization. This, to me, is as it should be. The children are at an age in which their brains are super-absorbent sponges, able to retain information at a far greater clip than older folk. As the information accumulates, they will start to see patterns on their own, and eventually will be able to make reasonable conjectures based on their accumulated data.

In the meantime, they are rapidly outstripping the state mandated pace in reading, arithmetic, social studies, and every other topic, all while getting to spend more time with me (always a win) and more time playing – which children also need.

On the whole, 2 months in, I rate home schooling an A+.

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